Paul has changed since that day. He is more possessive of me than he once was. Not during our daily life, but often our sex is fired with competitiveness, his c**k claiming me as if he has something to prove. He is not safe, and Stewart has every cause to be worried. They both own my heart now, an equal division fought over by two sets of blue eyes.
VENICE BEACH, CA
My phone rang and I glanced at it. “Lover” displayed across its front. Stewart. I opened the phone. “Hey Babe.”
“Hey. You free Thursday night? I have a work thing – need a date.”
“Perfect. I’ll connect you to Nicole.” There is a click and a few tones, before the cheerful voice of his assistant fills my ear. We chat for a few minutes, and then I hang up.
“Was that him?” Paul’s strokes across the board continue, slow patient swipes of wax protection. We are in the garage, the door up, our cars pulled into the alley, bikers occasionally whizzing through the open space. I’ve already waxed my board, my job quickly and haphazardly done, no real desire present to do a thorough job. But Paul takes his time, stretching the task out, his eyes careful on his work, his strokes sure and familiar.
“Yeah. I’ve got a thing to attend tomorrow night. I’ll be back in the morning. When do you leave for Costa Rica?” I watch his shoulders for tension, his jaw for rigidity - but he is calm, peace in his eyes, an easygoing manner in his movements.
“End of next week. I’ll be gone four or five days, depending on the flight.” He sets down the wax, walking around the board and leans back against my car, pulling me by the waist, into his arms.
“I’m gonna miss you Madd.”
I smile, leaning into his chest. “I’ll be here when you get back.”
“Promise.” I lifted my chin and he kissed me, his hands pulling me tight, his mouth needy on mine. This is Paul’s worry. That one day he will return, and I will be gone. That I will choose Stewart and not him. He doesn’t mind sharing, but losing me terrifies him.
I flip through book titles, pulling out spines and sliding in new ones, running the alphabet over my tongue, making sure that everything was in its proper place, J.D. Robb sitting after James Patterson and before Nora Roberts. I feel him before I see him, the creak of the floor behind me announcing a visitors weight, the air carrying the scent of sunscreen and sweat.
I don’t pause, my fingers pushing and pulling on titles, intent on filing these last three books before my mind gets sidetracked and I have to start the whole damn alphabet again.
“You know ebooks are going to replace these pretty soon.” The slow confident male drawl slows my movements, my mouth curving into a smile despite my best attempt to keep a cool exterior.
I squeeze the last book into place and stand, turning toward Paul. “Hey—words like that’ll get you killed around here.”
He scoffs, crossing his arms across a broad chest, covered in a sleeveless tank and a golden tan. “You don’t have a dangerous bone in your body.”
I walk around the half bookcase between us, ‘til I stand in front of him. “You’re right about that. I’m in sore need of a dangerous bone inside of me.”
He groans, his eyes turning from playful to feral in a moment, his hand reaching around me and pulling me tight to him. His other hand joins in, both of them gripping and pulling my ass, my pelvis, up into his body, tight enough that the ridge of his erection digs into me. He lets out a loud, shuddering breath as he lowers his mouth to mine. “You want me to fix that situation?”
“Oh yeah.” I grin, reaching up and tugging his head down, my tongue taking up the playful game, flicking into his open mouth, exploring the taste of him as his hands pull me tighter against his hard body.
“I want to f**k you right here,” he whispers against my mouth.
“So do it.” My hands slide under his shirt, traveling over the lines of abs, his mouth catching as I move my hands lower, under the hem of his board shorts, my fingers encountering the curly patch of hair there.
He chuckles, moving his mouth of mine and kissing the top of my head. “I’ll take care of you later. I just wanted to stop in and say hi.”
I look up at him. “Fine. I’m closing up shop at four. Want me to find you on the water then?”
He cradles my head in his hands, his eyes trailing over the lines of my face, as if he is memorizing the features. “I’ll be there. Tonight is when you have that thing?”
I nod. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
He grins, my playful boy back. “Then I’ll be sure to take care of you this afternoon.”
I yank him forward, wanting to feel the brush of hardness before he leaves me alone. “You better.”
He gives me a final kiss before releasing my face, tossing out a carefree smile before ducking through the entrance and disappearing into the bright Californian sun.
I understand that you hate me. That you curse me for my greed. But if I am okay with it, and they are okay with it, how is it anyone else’s right to judge?
VENICE BEACH, CA
CAVEFISH: [noun] Pale Surfer
I stub my cigarette out and watch the bar, listening idly as Shannon Marks blabbed the explicit details of last night’s blind date. I tune in occasionally, nodding politely and cracking a smile when the occasion seems to call for it. But mainly, I just watch the bar. I had seen her. Stewart’s blonde princess. I was sitting here, minding my own business, sipping fresh coffee and munching on a biscotti when she had trotted by. Flashing a smile to a pothead who sat on the curb, she had entered the bar without a second glance around. That was forty-five minutes ago. I light another cigarette.
Venice beach. Not the location I would have expected her in. From my first impression, at Livello, she had seemed too upscale for this area—her glowing skin and sparkly white teeth speaking of good breeding, the dress one that appeared to be four-figure fabulous. I almost didn’t recognize her here, in cutoff shorts and a plaid, long-sleeved button-up, aviators perched on her head, long tanned legs ending in a pair of leather flip flops. But it’s hard to miss a girl like her. And I’ve thought about that night too much to be sane. Replayed it over and over again in my head. The glow on her face, the look in his eyes. Stewart, barely aged, 100% the man I knew—save the grin on his face. The grin, the glint, of a man in love. That, sadly, was unfamiliar to me. I take a sip of coffee. Venice Beach. Yep, not what I would have expected. Then again, who am I to talk? I’m sitting here in a wool suit, sweating my ass off, all in hopes that I might run into Paul.